The Fifty Greatest Games in Cleveland Browns History
Praise for Classic Browns
“...author Jonathan Knight sifts out the moments that keep the Dawg Pound faithful.”
-Westlake West Life
“...a new book is on the shelves to remind us that there have been high spots in our favorite team’s history.”
-Dayton Daily News
“That Knight is a lifelong follower of the team only helps his credibility in picking the fifty greatest Browns games...”
“Knight’s prose shows an appreciation for the impact that Browns football has on the fans, yet is mature enough to avoid mawkishness, hyperbole or geeky displays of minutia.”
-The Orange and Brown Report
“Jonathan Knight’s fan feast Classic Browns recapitulates the 50 greatest games in the history of the franchise...”
“Knight’s top 50 list allows older fans to relive the team’s moments of glory - and despair - and younger fans to learn about the club’s memorable games.”
-Bedford Times Register
“For hardcore Browns fans this will be an enjoyable walk down memory lane...”
-Northwest Ohio History
The unforgettable 1948 presidential election that saw Harry Truman score an upset victory over Thomas Dewey three weeks earlier was still fresh in the minds of the American public. But in the course of their respective campaigns, neither Truman nor Dewey had embarked on a road trip quite as ambitious as the one the Browns began Thanksgiving week.
They would travel 7,000 miles and play three critical games in just eight days without returning to Cleveland. After a victory over the Yankees in New York, the Browns flew all night to Los Angeles, where they would face the Dons on Thanksgiving morning three days later. From there it was on to San Francisco for the game of the year - a battle with the 49ers for the AAFC West Division title.
In case there wasn’t already enough pressure as the Browns embarked on their cross-country gauntlet, the win in New York was the team’s fourteenth straight, and the Browns were now just two wins away from becoming the third professional team to post a perfect season. “Without question, the Browns are the greatest team in professional football,” Dons coach Jim Phelan said that week. “They probably are the greatest team ever assembled.”
The Browns looked the part on Thanksgiving, overcoming fatigue to score seventeen unanswered points in the second half to defeat the Dons 31-14 at the Los Angeles Coliseum before 60,000 fans. The win was their fifteenth straight. Their reward was a two-hour plane ride to Oakland, followed by a two-hour bus trip to remote Boyes Springs, where the team would get a mere two days to prepare for the game of the year. “Thus,” wrote Harold Sauerbrei in the Plain Dealer, “the Browns' chances of defeating the powerful 49ers for the second time this season appear dim.”
And when Paul Brown missed an interview session to hurriedly prepare for the 11-1 49ers, the Bay Area newspapers turned on him. Reporters began to question the Browns' lofty reputation, claiming the only reason they’d been so successful was because they’d been permitted to get away with illegal blocking maneuvers. As if rubbing salt in the wound, Otto Graham had dinged his knee in the Los Angeles game and was limping badly throughout practice on Friday. While some pressure Brown to throw caution to the wind and start Graham, the coach was wary. “We may use him today and ruin him for the rest of the year,” Brown said. “It’s entirely up to him.” But it appeared as though it would be up to backup Cliff Lewis, a Lakewood native, to guide the Browns to their third straight division title.
Conversely, not only did the 49ers get the entire week off to prepare for the Browns, they were the hottest offensive team in football. In a mind-boggling 63-40 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers the previous Sunday, the teams had combined to break sixteen records. Along the way, the 49ers became the first team to score sixty touchdowns in a season. While the Browns’ offense was strong, averaging twenty-seven points per contest, San Francisco was even better - averaging nearly thirty-six. The Browns’ defense had dominated the 49ers in a 14-7 victory in Cleveland two weeks earlier, but considering the week the Browns had endured, a repeat performance seemed unlikely. For the first time in their history, the Browns were underdogs.